After Jaw Surgery

The purpose of these instructions is to suggest ways to care for you after surgery. By following these instructions, you will reduce postoperative pain and swelling and help prevent complications. The doctor may make additional recommendations to you, depending on your specific circumstances. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your doctor.


You will have several medications prescribed to you. At the time of your discharge, the doctor will review these with you. It is important to take each medication properly. Instructions for the proper use of each medication are listed on each bottle. Taking pain medications in excess of recommended dosages increases the risk of side effects and usually does not improve effectiveness.

Physical Activities

Restrict physical activities for the period that your doctor recommends. Physical activity increases heart rate and blood pressure, which may cause bleeding to resume, and may also cause increased pain and swelling. In addition, it is important you avoid physical activities that might expose you to trauma to your face and jaws, resulting in displacement of jaw segments and the need for further surgery. Heavy lifting and associated clenching of the jaws may also cause displacement of jaw segments and should be avoided.


Your doctor requires you to maintain a non-chewing diet for six weeks after your surgery. At the same time, maintaining adequate nutrition is important for good healing. Any food that you can blenderize and swallow without chewing is appropriate. One strategy many patients use is to have a staple food such as a liquid meal replacement at every meal to ensure adequate vitamins and calories. Frequently, some part of your face will be numb after surgery. Therefore, it is important to take care when eating foods that are hot and to be careful when chewing.

Swelling and Pain

Besides the prescribed medications, an ice pack may be helpful in reducing pain and swelling. If you lie down, keep your head elevated on pillows. After 24 hours, you should switch from the ice pack to a heating pad or hot water bottle instead. This will help bring down the swelling. At 3-5 days after your surgery, you may notice dark red or brown drainage coming from the incisions. This represents the breakdown of the blood clot near the surgical site and is normal. If you notice any green, yellow or white drainage, however, you should contact your doctor.

Personal Hygiene

You may begin brushing your teeth the day after your surgery. Initially, you may want to avoid toothpaste, and simply use a toothbrush and warm water. Brush after each meal, and stay on the teeth and surrounding gums and avoid the incision sites. After brushing, if your doctor has prescribed an oral rinse, you may use that as directed. Additionally, you should begin rinsing your mouth with warm salt water numerous times per day beginning the day after surgery. You may begin normal showering or bathing the day after surgery. Getting in the shower and inhaling the steam will help clear your nose if it feels congested. Any skin incisions are not harmed by moisture at this time. If you are wearing a tape dressing on your chin, you can get this wet as well. After your shower or bath, pat the chin dressing dry with a towel, and apply antimicrobial ointment to any skin incisions.

Mouth Wired Shut

If you are in fixation (mouth wired shut with elastics or wires), do not try to open your mouth nor remove any elastics/wires. Always keep wire cutters accessible at all times in case of an emergency. Wires can remain intact if nausea and/or vomiting develop. If several elastics break, call our office during normal business hours to schedule an earlier follow up appointment.

Tobacco Use

Do not smoke or chew tobacco for as long as possible. Smoke and other foreign material in the mouth can cause irritation of the surgical wounds and an increase in pain. Also, nicotine and the other drugs in cigarettes cause constriction of blood vessels and delayed healing. In most cases, you will be scheduled for a postoperative check one week after your surgery. If swelling increases after three days, or you start having temperatures over 101.5 degrees, or notice anything else you feel is abnormal, please contact us. After hours and on weekends, the on-call surgeon can be reached by calling our office.